We recognize that the arts have unique power for marginalized people, enhancing academic and professional achievement, spotlighting the expressive voices of our community, and serving as a source for healing, liberation, and advocacy.

Visual Arts

Detention-based youth learn and practice visual arts as a vehicle for building the life-skills they need to reduce the risk of recidivism. Each session begins with an introduction to a skill that explicitly addresses antisocial thinking, temperament, and associates while building important skills like communication, decision-making, and empathy. The youth then engage in a project taught by artist-mentors who serve as role models. By introducing art materials, techniques, and the creative process in a formal group setting, youth are steeped in positive methods for expression and communication and are inspired to discover their best-selves.

Ours is the only visual arts education and life skills program offered to incarcerated youth in the Bay Area. We have produced the program in partnership with facilities in Sonoma, San Mateo, and San Francisco counties.

View our Art Gallery.


Our playwriting program pairs professional theater artists with detention-based or justice-involved youth for 30 hours to create an original one-act play based on their greatest wish or fear. Artist-mentors challenge youth to generate a captivating setting, create compelling and consistent characters, tell a dramatic story, explore a conflict, and achieve a dramatic climax and resolution—all within the world of metaphor, which enables young writers to share autobiographical stories behind a protective mask. Each series culminates with professional actors performing staged readings of the plays before a live audience, including the youth’s parents, peers, teachers, and caseworkers.

The program empowers even the most fragile and vulnerable artist within to emerge. Participants learn important creative writing, literacy, and critical-thinking skills, as well as social-emotional skills like communication, problem-solving, and self-assessment. The work requires intense self-reflection and strong persistence, which can lead to deep emotional healing.

By empowering youth artistically, the program gives voice to a population too often voiceless. Public viewing has the potential to demystify misconceptions about the juvenile justice system, changing how the community views incarceration and how marginalized youth view themselves.

Over 70% of program participants voluntarily enroll in Success Centers’ education and employment programs, continuing on their journeys of creating thriving futures for themselves.

We have produced the playwriting program in partnership with:

San Francisco County:

  • Brava Theater Center
  • Early Morning Study Academy
  • Juvenile Justice Center
  • Log Cabin Ranch

San Mateo County:

  • Camp Glenwood
  • Camp Kemp
  • Community School South
  • Gateway School
  • San Mateo Foster Youth
  • Thornton Continuation High School
  • Youth Service Center